As recovery efforts continue, complexity of response to fatal Vail Pass semi crash comes into focus
Update: The Colorado State Patrol has identified the deceased driver of the semi as Noyal Wesley, a 64-year-old from California.
As the work continues to clean up and remove the wreckage of a semi trailer that veered across Interstate 70 and into a ravine last week, killing its driver, Vail-area first responders and law enforcement agencies are sharing details about the complexity of the rescue and recovery efforts.
In a Facebook post Monday, Vail Mountain Rescue Group detailed the cooperative multiagency effort in a “Mission Digest”:
“Just after 5 p.m. on September 21, the operator of a semi-truck loaded with boxed corn lost control of his vehicle and drove over the edge of I-70 just east of the Town of Vail. When fire crews arrived on scene, they found the trailer dangling at the edge of a cliff, and the truck’s cab actively burning at the bottom of a deep ravine, wedged between two waterfalls in Black Gore Creek. Due to the verticality of the terrain, the incident commander requested assistance from Vail Mountain Rescue Group’s technical rope rescue team to help access the crash site.
“After the fire was extinguished, VMRG rescuers and fire personnel were lowered on ropes to search the vehicle and determined that the driver did not survive the crash. Recovery operations were suspended until the following morning. Just after 9 a.m. on September 22, firefighters and a team of VMRG high-angle rope rescue technicians rigged and operated a rope system that was used to lower fire personnel, VMRG rescuers, Summit County Water Rescue Team divers, and equipment down to the crash site. After rescuers extricated the body from the wreckage, fire personnel and VMRG’s rope rescue technicians rigged an up-haul system and extracted the subject, rescuers, and equipment from the crash site. Recovery operations concluded at 3:30 p.m.
“On September 23, Vail Fire & Emergency Services Fire Chief Mark Novak sent a letter of gratitude to the team. ‘Throughout the operation, VMR members demonstrated a high level of professionalism and competence; without their assistance, completing this mission would have been much more difficult,’ he wrote. ‘This incident is yet another example of the selfless dedication that is demonstrated by the volunteer members of VMR many times throughout the year.’
“Vail Mountain Rescue Group would like to thank the many resources that worked cooperatively to respond to this incident, including the Colorado State Patrol, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Eagle County Paramedic Services, Eagle River Fire Protection District, Summit County Water Rescue Team, Vail Fire and Emergency Services, and the Vail Public Safety & Communications Center.”
A crane is in place near the crash scene and workers were preparing to remove the semi Tuesday morning.
The driver of the semi has been identified by the Colorado State Patrol as 64-year-old Noyal Wesley, of California. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
The crash shut down the eastbound lanes of I-70 from East Vail to Copper Mountain for nearly four hours Sept. 21 and another two hours the morning of Sept. 22.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.